Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra SG (Soft Ground) – Review

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C’mon, GET A GRIP!

Oooooh grip! I love grip…. before you read anymore, I strongly suggest that you read my very recent review of the new Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra HERE

I loved the Sense 4 Ultra but I did say that due to the precision fit, 4mm drop and relatively tight toe box, it would not be a shoe for everyone! I suppose the same should apply here… it does BUT I do think that other factors come into play for the ‘SG’ version.

First and foremost, when running off road and when running in muddy, sloppy or technical terrain you most definitely need a shoe that is going to hold your foot, allow little or preferably no movement and of course be precise. That is the Sense 4 Ultra SG. So you see, although normally I wouldn’t say squeezing your foot into a shoe is a good idea, with a SG version it is acceptable based on two key principles:

  1. The shoe is not ‘too’ tight and in anyway causes discomfort, pain or unnecessary stress.
  2. You are not running for hours and hours.

If you fall into the above two options and you are thinking that the SG maybe or maybe not for you; it may well be worth a risk for the supreme fit, comfort and grip.

As with the Sense 4 Ultra (non SG) the new shoe has had thorough reworking taking into consideration much of the feedback not only from everyday runners like you and I but also the elite Salomon runners such as Kilian Jornet.

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SG stands for Soft Ground and as such, this shoe is all about grip when it’s needed. So, for many, the Sense 4 Ultra and Sense 4 Ultra SG go hand-in-hand and I think it’s fair to say that many will have (or at least wish for) both pairs of shoes.

©iancorless.com_Sense4SG-9072 The new shoe has been left alone in certain areas and tweaked and improved in other areas. Lets be clear, although it’s called SG it does make a perfect trail shoe for all conditions in my opinion. Admittedly, I wouldn’t want to run a pure hard trail in them but if I was mixing up dry trail, rocks, gravel, water, mud and a whole multitude of other surfaces, this is and would be my shoe of choice.

The Salomon S-Lab range very much follows the ethos of FAST and LIGHT but as the ‘Ultra’ name suggests, the shoe has a little more added to increase longevity and comfort. As with the Sense 4 Ultra, cushioning is 9mm and 13mm with a 4mm drop. I keep saying it but 4mm drop is not for everyone so don’t be tempted to use this shoe just because Kilian and the rest of the team use it… be sensible with shoe drop! The Fellraiser or Speedcross may be better options for you?
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The SG upper, like the Sense 4 Ultra has been revised. The fit has been tweaked with additional support added to the mid foot. Additional room has been added to the toe box but it’s marginal in my opinion. Sensifit has also been tweaked and the mapping on the upper is now different and holds the foot more secure.

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Sense 4 ULTRA on the left and the Sense 4 ULTRA SG on the right

Materials on the upper vary between the Sense 4 Ultra and the SG, the SG is more durable and arguably less breathable. The Sense 4 Ultra had additional toe box protection and the SG has even more added wich makes complete sense considering the shoe will be used in tougher terrain. If you read my Sense 4 Ultra review you will know how much I love Sensfit, Endofit and all the usual Salomon buzzwords. In a nutshell, for me, no shoe on the market fits as well as a Salomon Sense and I am inclusive in that statement; the Sense Pro, Sense Mantra 3 and so on all have that wonderful precise and secure hold. It’s the best! (If the shoe fits you)

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The SG is obviously a shoe for the rough and tough and the tongue has been changed to provide added protection and security. The fit between the upper and the tongue has been re-designed to reduce any possibility of debris entering. The lacing system and lace pocket again make the Salomon Sense stand head and shoulders above other shoes. It’s reliable, logical, provides great overall tension and of course, what you don’t need is stored away. The obvious downside is that adjusting tension is very difficult. So you’d have to make a call if that works for you! Many have said to me, ‘what if the lace breaks?’ In all honesty, I have never had a lace break and I don’t know anyone else who has.

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As with the Sense 4 Ultra, the SG has a complete overhaul of the outsole. The Contragrip lug pattern has been changed and the lugs are deeper to provide additional grip when the ground is soft and muddy but not so much grip that you cannot run on dry, hard or rocky trail. The compound has been revised and I noticed a difference on wet rock. The shoes have better bite. I said in my Sense 3 Ultra SG review (HERE) that although the shoe is called SG I wouldn’t necessarily say it would be my out-and-out soft ground shoe. The same applies here! I think the Sense 4 Ultra SG is an improvement on the previous model but if I just wanted a shoe for mud, I would potentially look at another option. Don’t get me wrong; this is not a negative comment. For example, Salomon make the S-Lab Fellcross and that would be ideal… the Sense 4 Ultra SG is designed for multiple surfaces, including soft ground and in those uses, they excel!

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In Use

What can I say, the SG runs as well if not better than the Sense 4 Ultra. They do feel a little different and this is primarily down to the lugs on the bottom of the shoe. With the extra lug height, it does make the SG feel a little more cushioned, it may be placebo but I don’t think so.

Fit between the Sense 4 Ultra and SG is almost the same. No, it is the same. The only difference comes in the material used on the uppers. The ‘Ultra’ has a more breathable and lighter upper in comparison to the SG which is a great call by Salomon. One could almost say that the shoes are Summer (Sense 4 Ultra) and Winter (SG). Of course it’s not that simple, particularly if you run in the UK! We don’t have summers, so, they are both winter shoes ;-).

The toe box of the SG feels the same as the Sense 4 Ultra in use but does have more protection..

Running in the shoe is a dream. Foothold and protection is awesome. The shoe has plenty of flex and suppleness (especially after 3-4 runs) and the Endofit, Sensifit and Quicklace make the precision feel of the shoe shine. I really struggle to find any negatives. Grip in the heal area is brilliant and once on and laced up, you have no foot movement. Just whaT I want from a shoe that would tackle technical terrain.

The grip is definitely improved over the Sense 3. On my local trails I noticed improved grip on softer ground and transitioning between surfaces is seamless. Ironically, the SG does feel nice on the road but I don’t recommend too much, particularly if you want the sole to last! On wet rocks, pavement and tarmac the outsole noticeably provided a more secure and reassuring contact with the ground. Is it the best out there? No, probably not. But this outsole is designed for ultra and mixed terrain, soft ground just being one aspect. I’d have no problems with the SG being my ‘go to’ trail shoe for any race or training run.

On that note, is it really an ultra shoe, by that I mean could I run for hours and hours in it? No I couldn’t. I love the 4mm drop but for me, I think I’d need something a little more relaxed for real long stuff, a 6mm or 8mm drop version would be sweet. Lets be clear though, that is me being greedy. The Sense 4 is an S-Lab shoe and as such, it’s all about speed and efficiency. On the right feet, these shoes will fly!

PROS:

  • Light
  • Responsive
  • Grip
  • Fit
  • Black and red (my fave colours)

CONS:

  • Too tight for some
  • Expensive
  • I struggle for cons!

It’s always difficult reviewing a Salomon S-Lab shoe as to be honest; I find it very hard to find negatives. The negatives are more often than not based around the shoe not being suitable for some people because of width, drop and so on.

The same applies here! The Sense 3 Ultra and Sense 3 Ultra SG were both brilliant shoes and the Sense 4 incarnations of both shoes are better! It’s hard to believe but they are.

Weighing in at 260g for a UK 8.5 (true to size fit), the Sense 4 Ultra SG is without doubt one of the best ‘grip’ trail shoes I have used. I do wish that Salomon would make this ‘exact’ shoe with a 6mm or maybe even a 8mm drop.

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As with the Sense 4 Ultra: the Sense 4 Ultra SG has OS Tendon, Profeet Film, dual density EVA, racing last, Quicklace, Sensifit, Endofit and a series of other notable technologies making this shoe the best 4mm drop shoe on the market… should the precise fit work for you!

Recent changes in the Salomon Sense range now make the Sense 4 Ultra (dry fast trail), Sense 4 Ultra SG (mixed trail) and the Sense Mantra 3 (road and trail) my shoes of choice. I keep going on about the Sense Mantra 3 (Here) but I think this is a great everyday shoe.

My final question is, will we see a new Sense Pro?

 

Specs for the Sense 4 Ultra SG

  • Sensifit
  • Quicklace
  • Racing Last
  • EndoFit
  • Lace Pocket
  • Quick Dry Mesh
  • OS Tendon
  • Profeet Film
  • Dynamic Traction
  • Contragrip Aggressive Outsole
  • Midsole Dual Density EVA
  • Cushioning Front – 9mm
  • Cushioning Rear – 13mm
  • Drop 4mm
  • Weight 260g / UK8.5

Check out the Salomon S-Lab range HERE

Salomon Logo

 

 

Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra – Review

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Okay, calm down. Yes I know it’s the Salomon S-Lab Sense 4. Yes, I know it’s the shoe that Kilian uses… yes, yes, it’s arguably one of the most desired shoes out in the market place. But is it any good and is it the shoe for you…?

Well, first and foremost. Is it the shoe for you?

Potentially NO!

Shock horror. Easy, easy, don’t go and throw your computer on the floor or punch the screen. More importantly don’t hate me. In all honesty, this may well not be the shoe for you!

To clarify, I am not saying the S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra is not a good shoe. Quite the opposite, it’s a great shoe with loads of great features and it’s a shoe that will delight and provide many a happy mile for the appropriate runner.

So what am I going on about?

Well quite simply, S-Lab is the pinnacle of the Salomon line up. It’s the bees knees, the dogs bolx, the big kahuna, the… you get the drift! Yes I know Kilian uses them! But I am not Kilian and to be quite honest, neither are you.

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The Sense 4 range of shoes currently Sense 4 Ultra and Sense 4 Ultra SG are the evolution of the original shoe pioneered by Kilian on the trails of Western States many years ago. It has evolved and arguably the current model is the best shoe to date. Salomon have listened to the feedback and most notable improvements are:

  • Improved grip
  • Slightly wider toe box (slightly)
  • Durability
  • Protection

I don’t disagree. All the above boxes are ticked. Without doubt, if you are a Sense 3 user, lover and aficionado, you are going to love the Sense 4 Ultra. The shoe does feel different and from experience they feel great out of the box but even better after 3-4 hours of running in them. they just soften up a little.

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The shoe is designed to be light and it is, 240g for UK8.5. It’s designed for dry trail, rocky and mountainous courses and in many respects the shoe is designed for long racing, hence the ‘Ultra’ name. However, this is not an ultra shoe for everyone! (more on that later.)

A 4mm drop shoe, cushioning is 9mm at the front and 13mm at the rear, for comparison, the Sense Mantra 3 has 9mm front and 15mm rear.

You may be asking, why has Ian mentioned the Sense Mantra 3?

Well actually, I personally feel that for many runners out there, the Sense Mantra 3 may very well be a better choice… controversial I know but I will go on to explain.

But first lets look at the Sense 4 Ultra in detail:

The shoe upper has been revised and is one seamless piece uber technology. Overall fit is better (that is hard to believe as the Sense 3 was awesome) and the toe box is a little wider.

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To be honest, I did notice a little extra width but it’s marginal. If you thought the Sense 3 had a tight toe box, you won’t try the sense 4 and think wow, that is so much wider. If you want that, you need to look at the Sense Mantra 3. But toe protection has been improved and you have a great bumper to protect from rocks.

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Sensfit mapping on the upper has been tweaked and I find it hard to believe but it does hold the foot even better than the previous model. I go on about Sensfit, Endofit and the Quicklace system all the time but for me, it’s the shoe fitting system that I compare all other shoes too. Yes, it’s that good!

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The fit of the tongue has also been improved. Again, the Sense 3 was awesome so any improvement here is a bonus and after several runs I can confirm less debri/dust enters the shoe as the  fit is ‘snugger’ than previous models.

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The Contragrip sole has had a significant change with extra depth added to the lugs. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an aggressive sole. I merely compare to the Sense 3.

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I would say that the most noticeable change is the outsole compound; It most definitely has greater grip on rock, road and gravel. Salomon say durability has also been improved? I can’t comment on that at the moment as it is too early in testing.

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Slipping the shoe on, I noticed the improved fit immediately and almost questioned if I needed a size bigger? I didn’t. I just needed to tweak my foot, pull the tongue and adjust appropriately. I was a UK9.5 in Sense 3 and I am a UK9.5 in the Sense 4 Ultra (and Sense 4 Ultra SG for comparison.)

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The S-Lab Sense was always designed to be worn with or without socks. Same applies here. Snug, snug fit and no seams to cause any issues. Endofit, Sensfit and all the usual Salomon S-Lab wonders are present and the shoe fits like a dream.

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The heel area is plush, snug, has no hot spots and holds the foot firm. Uphill or downhill you have 100% reassurance.

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The S-Lab range of shoes excel with a precision fit. By precision, I mean snug and for some that may well be perceived as tight. But that is the point… the shoe is designed to hold the foot secure and allow little to no movement. When running on tough and technical terrain, you don’t want a sloppy shoe. This is why I said in my introduction that this may not be the shoe for you!

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If you are not a fore to mid-foot runner this is not the shoe for you. A drop of 4mm keeps you on your toes and you need to be efficient to make the most of the Sense 4 Ultra. Cushioning at 9mm is very good and ironically is comparable with the Sense Mantra 3. I did it again, I mentioned the Mantra 3!

Looking at the outsole you will see grip on the forefoot and the heal but no grip in the middle of the shoe.©iancorless.com_Sense4-8580

To explain things a little more clearly, look at the image below comparing the Sense 4 Ultra to the Sense Mantra 3.

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It’s really noticeable. The Sense 4 Ultra is more streamlined, narrower in the toe box, most definitely narrower in the middle of the shoe and a touch narrower at the back of the shoe. To clarify, the Sense 4 has a racing last.

You may now begin to understand my constant mention of the Sense Mantra 3 and why for many, it may well be a better choice.

Running in the Sense 4 as you would expect is wonderful and secure. The shoe is precise, has great flexibility, improved grip and overall improved feel over the Sense 3. It’s a winner! On technical terrain you have a constant feel for the ground and due to the tight fit, the shoe goes exactly where you want it to go and importantly your foot does not move inside the shoe. The Quicklace and Lace Pocket are still my favourite lacing option of any shoe. As in the Mantra 3, the OS Tendon really works in providing spring and the Profeet Film protects from sharp objects on the trail.

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Although the shoe is called ‘Ultra,’ I see this model as being a great mountain race shoe for dry and rocky terrain. Could you run an ultra in them? Well, that depends on the runner, the distance of the race and how long you would be running. For me, I personally don’t feel I could run for longer than four (ish) hours in this model. As I say, this is very personal.

Summary

Awesome shoe for the efficient ultra trail and mountain runner who needs a shoe that offers precise control, awesome fit and grip for dry (non muddy) technical terrain.

DING DING DING

Okay, that is my alarm bell ringing – read on!

I said in my intro, ‘Shock horror. Easy, easy, don’t go and throw your computer on the floor or punch the screen. More importantly don’t hate me. In all honesty, this may well not be the shoe for you!’

The combination of tight fit, 4mm drop, racing last and narrow toe box may well mean that the Sense 4 Ultra is not the shoe for you to use. Don’t despair…

I have used the Sense 3 in both versions for months and loved them. I love the Sense 4 Ultra but having used the new Sense Mantra 3, I can honestly say that the Mantra 3 may well be my preferred choice for certain types of running.

If I was going for an out-and-out technical trail mountain run I would choose the Sense 4 hands down, The secure fit, improved grip and combination of features make it a winner. But I wouldn’t want to be out all day.

If I was going for a long run on dry trail with rocks, technical terrain and plenty of miles, I would go the Mantra 3.

The Sense Mantra 3 finally provides a real opportunity for many runners who wanted to use a Salomon Sense but couldn’t get a shoe wide enough in the toe box. The addition of 2mm to the drop is also an added boost to the less ‘race’ orientated runner. Yes I know Kilian doesn’t wear the Mantra 3 but you can’t have it all!

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Final conclusions:

The Sense 4 Ultra has all the usual S-Lab traits and they have been tweaked to provide you, the runner, with arguably the best incarnation of the Sense yet. But it’s a specialist shoe as mentioned previously. The combination of 4mm drop, tight fit and narrower toe box will not be for everyone. However, if you have been using a Sense 3, you will almost certainly love the Sense 4.

If Salomon and in particular the Sense have been too tight and too low (drop) for you, don’t despair. The Sense Mantra 3 is an absolutely incredible shoe, has all the important ‘Sense’ features and you will not be disappointed.

Read a review of the Sense Mantra 3 HERE

Technical Specs for the S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra

  • WEIGHT 240
  • WEIGHT 1
  • CUSHIONING 2
  • STABILITY 2
  • PROTECTION 2
  • BREATHABILITY 5
  • DURABILITY 2
  • MIDSOLE HEIGHT 13mm/9mm
  • DROP 4mm

Quick drying breathable mesh

Propriotection™

Sensifit™

Quicklace™

Racing last

Lace pocket

EndoFit™

Outsole: Non marking Contagrip®

OS Tendon

Dynamic TRACTION

Chassis: Profeel Film

Midsole: Dual density EVA

Sockliner: Die cut EVA

 Check out Salomon S-Lab range HERE

Salomon Logo

 

Salomon Sense Mantra 3 – Review

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When Salomon signed Ellie Greenwood and Max King (just ran 2:17 for Olympic qualifier) for 2015 sponsorship, the two current 100km champions, it was a clear statement that the brand wants to make some headway on the road as well as trail.

The new S-Lab X Series (Here) is an out-and-out road shoe but Salomon are also very keen to capture all of hose runners that run on road, trail, road, trail and then road… but not necessarily in that order. The birth of CITYTRAIL. It’s not rocket science but if in doubt, CITYTRAIL shoes combine the best of a road shoe and then mix it up with a trail shoe.

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The original Salomon Mantra (2012) was ground breaking. However, the shoe has come a long way from its original incarnation and although the new Mantra 3 does hold some of the original traits, it’s fair to say that the Sense Mantra 3 is a completely new shoe.

Imagine taking the much loved S-Lab Sense, breeding it with the original Mantra and in many ways you have the Sense Mantra 3.

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Do you like the S-Lab Sense in either normal or soft-ground versions? If so, you are almost certainly going to like the Mantra 3.

The shoe has all those wonderful S-Lab characteristics that we have all come to love:

  • Sensfit
  • Endofit
  • Lace pocket
  • Quicklace
  • OS Tendon
  • Ortholite
  • Profeet Film

So many buzz words but in brief they all add up to…  awesome!

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Okay, I fully appreciate that here I am again waxing lyrical about another pair of shoes and arguably another pair of Salomon’s that are a joy to wear. But I only tell it like it is… I loved the Sense 3 SG and I loved the Sense Pro, so, combine those two shoes and you arguably have the Sense Mantra 3. BUT the shoe has some significant differences.

©iancorless.com_Mantra3-7596First and foremost, the sole of the shoe has been redesigned and it has a completely new look. Need a shoe for soft or muddy ground? Look elsewhere. But if you are mixing road, hard trail, rocks and anything in and around that scenario, the Mantra 3 is a dream.

©iancorless.com_Mantra3-7565 The shoe feels very cushioned and plush. This almost certainly comes from Endofit. Lets face it, once you have used Endofit; other shoes feel a little sloppy. Endofit holds the foot snug, secure and as such provides great feel and security. Basically it’s a wrap for your foot.

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The Mantra 3 has 15mm cushioning at the rear and 9mm at the front. I was a little surprised by those stats. The shoe feels a little more cushioned than that but I don’t mean that in a negative way. You still have plenty of feel, loads of response and arguably the 6mm drop provides an ideal sweet spot.

Weight is awesome at 275g (UK8) and the shoe feels light. Flexibility is great and when out running, the shoe actually makes you want to increase your cadence and pick up the pace. I loved that feeling… I just wish my lungs and heart could keep up with the shoes.

©iancorless.com_Mantra3-7573Lacing is legendary and the ‘Quicklace’ system works flawlessly. I have no problems with this system but it is fair to say that if you like to tweak your laces and loosen them in places, that is difficult to do here. Excess lace is stored in the equally legendary ‘Lace Pocket.’

I personally found that my shoes sized a little small. I use UK9.5 in Sense 3, Sense 3 SG and Sense Pro but I found that I needed a UK10 for the Mantra 3. Of course this may just be a one off? However, if ordering online, keep this in mind.

©iancorless.com_Mantra3-7593 The noticeable difference in the Mantra 3 is the toe box! It is without doubt considerably wider and roomier than any other Salomon shoe I have used. So much so that I found myself tweaking the tightness of my laces to compensate. I know only too well how many people complain that Salomon shoes are too narrow. Well, this may well be a shoe for you to try. I thought the Sense Pro had a wider toe box but the Mantra 3 is definitely wider. This all may be part of Salomon’s new strategy as the S-Lab Sense 4 and Sense 4 SG have a slightly wider toe box too. Depending on how you run and what your preferences are, the wider toe box can be a negative as much as a positive. Having used both versions of the Sense 3 and the Sense Pro (and loved them) I found that at times I had a little ‘too’ much movement in the toe area on the Mantra 3, which didn’t give me the precision feel I am used to. We have to remember here that the Mantra 3 is a hybrid shoe, so this additional freedom is intentional. Certainly on longer runs this additional area was welcome should your feet swell and expand.

©iancorless.com_Mantra3-7585The heel area of the shoe is plush, holds the foot tight and has no friction. Toe protection at the front of the shoe is minimal, so, should you get on some really rocky terrain, be careful of your toes.

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The outsole as I mentioned has been redesigned and I have to say that if you keep to hard trail, rocks or road the grip is great. Equally I had full confidence in wet conditions. If you are heading out into the mud, this is not the shoe to take… look at the Sense 4 SG, Speedcross or Fellcross.

As mentioned, the Ortholite/ Sensifit combination provides a plush and cushioned feel and the addition of a Profeet Film adds security and protection from the road and/or trail surface.

In summary, the Mantra 3 is a great shoe for someone who mixes up road running and trail running on a daily basis. But don’t be put off by this ‘compromised’ approach. For me, the Mantra 3 is a great dry trail shoe or a great road shoe, I would have no problem running for extended periods on either surfaces. The 6mm drop is ideal for many providing a sweet middle ground and the cushioning is ideal for long runs. It is arguably a perfect long distance dry trail shoe. If I was running a race similar to Western States, I personally think the Mantra 3 would be my preference over the S-Lab Sense 4. The additional cushioning, roomier toe box and extra height on the drop for me make this shoe a winner for ultra runners.

Pros

  • Endofit
  • 6mm drop
  • Weight
  • Cushioning
  • Wide toe box
  • Lacing
  • Lace pocket

Cons

  • Toe box may be too wide for some
  • Sizes a touch small (for me anyway)
  • No good in mud

Specs

  • Weight 275g
  • Drop 6mm
  • Cushioning 9mm/ 15mm
  • RRP £90.00
  • Available early 2015

Salomon really are extending the CITYTRAIL range in terms of shoe range and clothing. Take a look HERE

Salomon Logo

SALOMON S-LAB SENSE ULTRA SET and SALOMON S-LAB SENSE SET

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A new year and new products! Nothing is more eagerly awaited than a new offering from Salomon and today I take a look at two new race vests from the French brand, the S-LAB SENSE ULTRA SET and the S-LAB SENSE SET.

Race vests have become the norm in racing now and it’s east to see why. When the product works (and some don’t) they fit like a piece of clothing, they don’t move, they cause no chaffing and they provide easy and immediate access to everything you need while still pushing the pace. I honestly don’t know who first came up with the ‘vest’ concept, what I do know is I always remember Kilian Jornet finishing and winning UTMB and holding his vest above his head!

Salomon vests and the S-LAB ADV SKIN HYDRO 12 SET can be seen in long distance races all over the world. Tweaked from one model to the next and the current incarnation has moved away from using a bladder to front mounted soft flasks. With a huge capacity, it’s often considered as one of the most ideal packs to hold all mandatory kit for a long distance race. The pack is lighter and utilises all the key features that one needs including that snug form fitting hold on the body. However, 12L capacity is not needed for shorter and faster races.

Enter the S-LAB SENSE ULTRA SET and the S-LAB SENSE SET.

It’s unusual in a review that I would review two packs at once, however, these two packs are so similar that a separate review is not necessary. So, I am reviewing the SENSE ULTRA SET and I will note comments and changes as appropriate for the SENSE SET.

So what is the difference? Simple: weight and capacity. The SENSE ULTRA SET has a 3L capacity and weighs a  110g. The SENSE SET has a capacity of 1L and weighs 90g. I am pleased to say that my two test packs are different colours, the 3L is black and the 1L is red. That’s going to make things easier.

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Both packs are identical at the front and differ at the back. This is where capacity is removed or added, so, let’s look at the front first.

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This is a really sweet pack! The layout is great, comfort is awesome and the capacity is ideal for any run when mandatory kit is minimal.

Key features:

Two 500ml soft flasks in two stretch pockets.

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Two dump pockets (open ended but elasticated at the top) at the bottom of the soft flasks

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Two zipper pockets (on each side) with large capacity made from a stretch fabric.

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Open ended stretch pocket on the left shoulder strap above the bottle.

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Zipper pocket on the right shoulder strap above the bottle.

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Adjustable fitting system (left to right) with three upper and lower settings.

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Whistle.

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In Use

I have the M/L fit and it’s quite simply the most comfortable pack I have ever worn. The pack hugs the body, it does not rub and importantly under the armpits and around the neck area the cut is wide to avoid any nasty rubbing.

The soft flasks sit on the chest and do not bounce. You can drink from the bottles without removing them when required, however, I haven’t been able to do that running. I need to stop, lean over, bite the bottle, take a drink and then push on…  Soft flasks and tight fitting stretch pockets make for a tricky combination. The soft flasks and the way they fit on the body are perfect, but trying to add a full bottle back to the pocket can be tricky. With practice it does get easier and a tip is to blow back into the bottle once you have taken a drink. This inflates the bottle and makes it more rigid. I personally have always preferred bottles over bladders and soft flasks and Salomon’s positioning make this combination the best I have tested.

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The upper zipper pocket will fit a phone or a gps device. I personally use and old style waterproof phone when racing and that fits perfectly. However, on training runs I have taken an iPhone 5 in a waterproof casing. So, capacity is ideal. The pocket is tight and stretchy and therefore whatever you put in is held tight with no bounce, another plus!

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On the opposite side the open ended stretch pocket is also large enough to hold a phone but is ideally suited for maybe food items or a music player.

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The two open ended dump pockets on either side of the pack below the bottles are large enough to hold multiple gels and bars and/ or items such as gloves, hat, buff or anything similar. To give you an idea of capacity, I could fit a beanie and gloves in one side and four/ five gels or bars on the other side. Ultimately it means you have plenty of room for energy when racing. Access is dead easy. Just put your hand in and pull the items out.

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The two zipper pockets are the secret weapon on both packs. I am amazed at how spacious these pockets are. Depending on the race you are doing and also dependant on your own personal preferences; the zipper pockets will actually hold a taped seam waterproof jacket in one side and taped seam waterproof trousers in the other side!

©iancorless.com_Salomon-7832 ©iancorless.com_Salomon-7836

 

Salomon provided me the  S-LAB HYBRID JACKET and S-LAB HYBRID PANTS (both medium) to test (review to follow later) and these items folded up and fitted in both packs perfectly.

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Considering the SENSE SET pack is only 1L capacity, this is remarkable. Lets just look at the facts, you can fit in:

  • Jacket
  • Trousers
  • Phone
  • 1L of fluid
  • 4-10 bars or gels
  • Hat and gloves
  • and then other extras such as Mp3, space blanket or other small items.

The SENSE ULTRA SET adds extra capacity at the rear in the form of two pockets. The SENSE SET is just a highly breathable and lightweight pack with no extras.

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A ‘kangaroo pocket’ on the on the lower third of the rear of the pack provides an easy access open ended pocket that can be added to or taken from whilst moving. The pocket is quite small and would take a windproof jacket or food items.

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The mesh back panel is actually two layers and makes an open ended deep pocket that can actually be accessed without removing the pack. It’s surprisingly roomy and should you decide not to add a jacket and trousers to the zipper pockets, this pocket can hold both items. Yes, it’s that roomy!

When running, it was easy to reach over, place my hand in the pocket and pull out my jacket. Of course, it was easier to do this if I stopped BUT this vest is very much designed about moving fast and light. It’s a performance product and as such, should you have the need to be quick… this product will allow you that comfort!

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I have reviewed many products and last year I reviewed the stripped down inov-8 race vest (review here). This for me was a great product. I loved the feel of it, I loved the capacity and I loved its usability when running. For me though, Salomon have upped the game with the SENSE ULTRA SET and the SENSE SET and produced two sublime products that are a joy to wear and use.

Considering the minimal differences between the two vests, I would almost certainly recommend that the SENSE ULTRA SET is the ideal purchase. From Salomon’s perspective, it almost feels an indulgence to have a 1L and 3L version. The added cost and added capacity of the 3L makes far more long term sense for me and lets face it, if you are running really long races, you will probably have the 12L product (or similar) anyway.

On a final note, I am seriously impressed with the capacity of both packs. The SENSE SET at 1L holds a ridiculous amount of kit for something so minimal that I question if 1L capacity is correct? The SENSE ULTRA SET wouldn’t hold all the required items for a race like UTMB but it wouldn’t come far off if you were keeping items to a minimum. That said, the SENSE ULTRA SET makes a perfect and ideal pack for racing any distance (even 100-miles) when all you need is some liquid, food, jacket, trousers, hat, gloves, space blanket, phone and a few other small items. It’s arguably the perfect pack!

Pros:

  1. Soft flasks are a dream
  2. Capacity on the front of both packs is incredible
  3. Zipper pocket is great for valuable items
  4. Open ended dump pockets great for items that you need all the time – food, hat, gloves and so on.
  5. Zipper pockets have amazing capacity
  6. You could wear the products against your skin
  7. On the SENSE ULTRA SET the rear capacity is superb and a real eye opener
  8. Weight is amazing
  9. Price is good £100 for SENSE ULTRA SET and £85 for SENSE SET

Cons:

  1. Soft flasks can be tricky to get back in the open ended pockets
  2. I am not sure how the pack would fit for lady users. The bottles would potentially sit in just the wrong place?
  3. The ‘kangaroo’ pocket on the SENSE ULTRA SET is small
  4. These are lightweight products and durability ‘may’ be an issue?

Conclusion:

I love these two packs. They actually make wearing a pack a pleasure rather than a chore and that is a real bonus. Capacity is quite mind blowing in both products and the SENSE ULTRA SET makes the most logical purchase choice as it provides more usage options. I actually found it difficult to come up with ‘cons’ for these packs they are that good!

Check out Salomon HERE

 

Salomon LogoSALOMON S-LAB SENSE ULTRA SET

©iancorless.com_Salomon-7704

Ultra-lightweight running pack designed by Salomon Athletes. The Salomon S-LAB Sense Ultra Set weighs in at 110g and is designed to carry the bare essentials in absolute comfort with a 3L capacity.

  • Motion fit trail
  • Sensifit
  • Soft twin link
  • 2 zippered pockets
  • 1 chest pocket
  • 2 soft flask
  • Zipper phone pocket
  • 2 stretch pockets
  • Back compartment
  • Kangaroo pocket
  • soft rim
  • Reflective
  • Whistle

SALOMON S-LAB SENSE SET

©iancorless.com_Salomon-7759

Ultra-lightweight running pack designed by Salomon Athletes. The Salomon S-LAB Sense Set weighs in at under 100g and is designed to carry 1L of the absolute bare essentials.

 

  • Motion fit trail
  • Sensifit
  • Soft twin link
  • 2 zippered pockets
  • 1 chest pocket
  • 2 soft flask
  • Zipper phone pocket
  • 2 stretch pockets
  • soft rim
  • Reflective
  • Whistle

Salomon S-LAB Sense 3 SG (Soft Ground) Review

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I test a great deal of shoes and these days rarely do I get a shoe that I really don’t like. All the brands learn from each other and I guess ‘borrow’ ideas to help develop their own shoes and so therefore the playing field starts to even out. In the old days I would test a ‘neutral’ shoe, decide if I liked it, look at the grip or lack of and then review it. However, we are spoilt for choice these days… 12mm drop, 8mm drop, 6mm drop, 4mm drop, 0 drop and then road grip, road-to-trail, trail, dry trail, wet trail, soft ground, fell and so on. Jeez it can be exhausting and that is from a reviewing point of view. I’m pleased to say, that as a reviewer I get provided all my shoes and so if I don’t like a pair, it’s no big deal. However, had I spent a £100+ on a pair I’d feel a little perturbed to find out that I didn’t like them. So, I take reviewing shoes seriously! After all, what I write may well influence you to spend your hard earned bucks. I always try to remain impartial, inevitably though some personal thoughts and preferences will come in and when they do, I usually try to be very clear when making those points. I wrote an article a while ago and it may be wise to read it (HERE) before reading on.

©iancorless.com_SalomonS3SG-8111So, Salomon Sense 3 Ultra SG (soft ground) do I like them? Yes, I love them!

I picked up this particular pair of shoes in the middle of 2014 and I have run on road (not too much) trail, hard trail, soft trail, rocks, snow, ice, mud, bog, fell and downright disgusting ploughed farm fields of mud and they have performed in most scenarios remarkably well.

I know Kilian wears Sense (not the ultra) as does many of the Salomon racing team and yes, it’s easy to be convinced that the shoes are great because they wear them. But genuinely, for me, the Sense Ultra really is the dog’s bolx. 

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Why?

As with all the Sense shoes, Salomon use a fitting system within the shoe called ‘*Endofit’ It’s a sock-liner that holds the foot in place providing THE most comfortable fitting shoe on the market. (My opinion, obviously.) So, if you haven’t tried a Sense shoe on before, don’t order online, as you may well need to play around with sizing to find your ideal fit. Get the correct fit and the shoes are a dream to wear. Many say that the toe box is too narrow but I actually haven’t found that. Yes, they may be narrower than some shoes on that market but not as narrow as others, so again, try this out for you.

*Endoft – an internal fit sleeve designed to hug the foot in exactly the right places and improve feedback and foot wrapping.

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Once your foot enters the shoe it’s like a custom made glove. You really notice it when you move to a shoe without Endofit. This is something I do a great deal when testing so that I understand the pros and cons of respective shoes. The SG has Salomon’s unique lacing system and the ‘garage’ to stow any excess lace when tied. I have yet to find a person who doesn’t love this lacing system.

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The ‘Ultra’ version of the Sense has more cushioning than the normal ‘Sense’ and therefore it is designed for longer running. However, I think for most people, the Ultra version offers the ideal cushioning irrespective of racing distance. Of course I give a fair amount of personal preference here, so please keep this in mind if you really like the ‘feel’ of the ground as the normal ‘Sense’ may well be for you?

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The ‘SG’ part of the Sense 3 Ultra SG refers to ‘soft ground’ and it basically takes the Salomon Speedcross, strips it down into a racing shoe that is lighter, provides more feel of the ground and ultimately makes it a faster shoe. I don’t agree 100% here, so, you will have to read on…

The shoes pros and cons

Lets start with the ‘SG’ part, as ultimately this is the ‘USP’ of the Sense 3 Ultra SG. It’s an aggressive sole shoe that as one would expect provides grip on multiple types of terrain. For me, the shoe excels on any trail that is dry with a loose surface. Mud is also easily dealt with if not too sloppy. BUT if you get on really muddy trails and very wet slippery grass/ fell the SG does not perform as well as other shoes. So yes, this is a criticism. However, I very much see the Sense 3 Ultra SG as a ‘go-to’ trail shoe when I need something that works well on a multitude of surfaces in one run. If I wanted a shoe for an out and out muddy fell run then I would choose the inov-8 X-Talon 212 (or similar.)

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The ‘Contagrip’ sole compound is relatively hard wearing and non-marking. I have used my test pair for 6-months and they show significant wear but I have been hard on them. I have not used them purely on soft ground. For example, my daily trail run always includes 2-3 miles of road/ tarmac and that really can impact on any shoe over time but the SG has handled that well. On dry trail and rock the SG are great but when rocks, tarmac or road get wet, grip can be compromised. On VK (vertical kilometre) courses they have been excellent, for example the Chamonix VK that twists and turns on dry and rocky trail. However, on a grass VK such as the Dolomites, grip was compromised.

©iancorless.com_SalomonS3SG-8116Endofit is awesome and for me provides the most reassuring, secure and comfortable fitting shoe on the market. The toe box may be a little narrow for many runners but I had no issues and I usually prefer more room.

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Toe protection is good from a reinforced toe box. The rear of the shoe is snug, comfortable and if you have the correct size shoe, you have no slipping or movement. Lacing is legendary and the lace garage is perfect.

4mm drop does mean you need to be an efficient runner with a mid to forefoot strike, so, if you are hitting the ground with your heal first, this is not the shoe for you. Feel for the ground is excellent and cushioning is great for such a light and responsive shoe. The ‘Profeel Film’ provides protection from sharp and/ or irregular objects so hours in the SG are not a problem. The shoes are neutral with no support, so if you like a little arch support (Salomon Speedcross) or you are prone to Plantar Fasciitis the SG is probably not for you. 

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Conclusion

The Salomon Sense 3 Ultra SG is a great shoe. It’s not perfect though. If I were looking for an out and out soft ground shoe then ironically the ‘SG’ would not be it. But if I wanted a shoe for daily training or racing that handled a multitude of different surfaces then the SG would always be my shoe of choice (and is.) When I travel, and I travel a great deal, the Sense 3 Ultra SG is always in my bag.

So is this shoe for you? Well, only you can answer that question. But if you are looking for a shoe that can:

  • Handle a multitude of mixed terrain.
  • Has low drop.
  • Supreme foot hold.
  • Good cushioning.
  • Excellent lacing,

Then the ‘SG’ should be a shoe you consider.

If you want a shoe for running ‘just’ on soft ground, then no, ironically the SG is not the best shoe for you.

You will already know this but any product in the Salomon S-LAB range is not cheap. But I do really feel that in the Sense Ultra you get what you pay for, a high-end shoe that if it were a car, it would be a Ferrari.

Finally, no one shoe will ever do all things well. Want to run road? Get a road shoe. Want to run road and trail? Get a ‘City Trail’ shoe. Want to run on the fells in thick mud? Get a fell running shoe. Want a shoe that manages to mix all of the above (admittedly, not too much road) then the Sense 3 SG (or the new Sense 4) is going to be a tough shoe to beat.

In March 2015 the new incarnation of the Sense SG will be released, the Sense 4. Here is a sneak preview:

The Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 Ultra SG 

Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 SG

Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 SG

The Salomon S-LAB Sense 4 Ultra SG is new for 2015 and will be available in the UK from March (tbc.)

  • The sole has deeper lugs and the sole compound has been adjusted.
  • The already brilliant Endofit has been tweaked to avoid less debris entering the shoe.
  • Additional room in the toe box.
  • Additional mid-foot support.
  • A new upper will provide a better fit using Sensifit and additional width has been added to the toe box.
  • Fit will apparently be even better than the Sense 3.

Specifications for the new Sense 4

WEIGHT 264 g  (SIZE UK 8.5)

 

UPPER

Quick drying breathable mesh

Propriotection™

Sensifit™

Quicklace™

Racing last

Lace pocket

EndoFit™

 

SOLE CONSTRUCTION 

Mud & Snow non-marking Contagrip®

OS Tendon

Dynamic TRACTION

 

CHASSIS

Profeel Film

 

MIDSOLE

Dual density EVA

Moulded EVA

 

SOCKLINER

Die cut EVA

 

MID SOLE HEIGHT

13mm/9mm – 4mm drop

Check out Salomon S-LAB HERE

Salomon Logo

 

Salomon Sense Pro Review

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When Salomon released the original Sense. It created a storm of interest, I suppose mainly because a certain Kilian Jornet used them.

Since the original incarnation we have seen the shoe develop and the recent offerings of the Sense Ultra and the Sense Ultra Soft Ground (more grip) have been a revelation for many a runner. Low drop, arguably the sweetest fitting shoe on the market, light and of course the unique lacing system with garage. The Sense is a shoe I see all the time in races from VK to 100-miles and beyond.

There is no shortage of reviews available on the Internet. Although the shoe may not be for everyone, the general consensus is that the Sense is a must try shoe and to be honest, if the snug fit and low drop works for you, it’s difficult to look elsewhere.

So, if you are already a Sense fan, I can probably anticipate you will have the original Sense and pair of Soft Grounds or a pair of Sense Ultra and Soft Grounds. They go hand in hand as the perfect combo.

Grab your wallet because the new addition to the Salomon family, the Sense Pro is a must have for the discerning Salomon worshipper. It’s worth pointing out immediately, that if the Sense Ultra hasn’t worked for you because of the narrow fit, the Sense Pro may well address that issue.

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 City Trail is a buzzword at the moment, also known as door to trail or road to trail. Ultimately, shoe manufacturers appreciate the need and the demand for a shoe that can function on road and trail. So, basically we are looking at a hybrid shoe. The Sense Pro falls in this category. As I see it, the Salomon fellas have taken a mummy ‘Mantra’ and left it alone with daddy Sense Ultra and in time a wonderful Sense Pro has emerged as the new baby in the Salomon crèche.

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So what’s it got…?

  • Sensfit
  • Endofit
  • Lace pocket
  • Quicklace
  • Racing last

And so on and so on… you get the drift. It has all the Salomon buzz words and as we know, these buzz words work.

Slip the shoe on and boy oh boy, slippers come to mind. Of all the shoes I have tested and worn, nothing, nothing at all comes close to the wonderful sock liner of the Sense. Once you have used it and got used to it. You want it in every shoe. It literally just holds your foot in the softest and most seamless grip of any shoe tested. It’s like placing your foot in a velvet glove and then when you tension the lace, the pressure is applied in subtle way that allows no movement. For me, any shoe that has ‘Endofit’ provides the most secure feel on ay surface.

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In conjunction with low drop, in this case 6mm, you have wonderful contact with the ground. A key feature here is that 6mm drop, Salomon have decided that this is a sweet spot in drop and therefore as this shoe is not an out and out racer, it makes for a perfect choice for longer days or easy training days. If I had to draw comparisons, it’s like wearing a Formula 1 car on your feet; low ride, perfect grip, great feedback and great propriotection. If you haven’t guessed, I love the Sense Pro.

Cushioning is 16mm at the heel and 10mm at the front. By comparison, the Sense Ultra has 13mm/9mm (4mm drop) and the SG is the same. Combining elements from other shoes in the Salomon range, the Pro has an ‘OS Tendon’ (A running construction that provides better rolling and a soft rebound, used for running shoes as well as for natural running and hiking shoes in different constructions) and seamless construction. This combination makes the shoe perfect for longer days and of course as this is designed to move seamlessly from road to trail, it offers great protection.

©iancorless.com_sensepro_-0005The heel is secure and padded. One you adjust the laces and pull them tight, the fit is the sweetest out there in my opinion. It’s the combination of the sock liner, great lacing and snug heel. As I said previously, your foot is held tight. No movement. A plus side of this snug fit is the differences made in the toe box.

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If you look at the photo below you will see the difference between the Sense Ultra SG, Sense Ultra and the Sense Pro. The Pro has a slightly more squared off toe box with great protection. So, if you have found previous editions of the Sense a little too tight, the Pro may well be for you?

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Grip is where the compromise is made. That is not a negative comment, after all, the shoe is a City Trail shoe, and so, you are not going to have SG grip. In actual fact, the grip is very similar the Sense Ultra. It’s perfect for dry trails and rocks, they work well in the wet on either road or rocks but if it gets muddy, hold on to your shorts because this when you notice the compromise. Transitioning from road to trail and back again is sweet. I have done some big sections of road and find the transition perfect. I would have no issue going for a road run in them. At this stage though it’s too early to tell what impact that would have on the longevity of the sole. I currently have 120-miles in these and no sign of wear.

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Sizing is true. I use UK9.5 in the Sense Ultra and Sense Ultra SG and the Pro is the same size. However, it does feel a little roomier. It should though, that is obviously what Salomon tried to achieve with this shoe. Weight is a little more then the Ultra and SG but still lightweight.

It’s simple really; the Sense Pro has become my day-to-day go to shoe. It has all the elements required in what I need. It has low drop, but not too low, the fit is like a glove, cushioning is a little more than the Sense Ultra and therefore provides just a little more protection daily (without the loss of feel) and ultimately the shoe balances natural running, protection and feel in a perfect package.

Go get a pair…!

View the shoes at Salomon.com

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Kilian Jornet – The Matterhorn Summit Interview

Kilian Jornet ©iancorless.com

Kilian Jornet ©iancorless.com

Kilian Jornet – The Matterhorn Interview

August 25th, Zermatt, Switzerland.

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1080830

Translations

Czech HERE, Italian HERE, Spanish HERE, French HERE

It’s the day after the Matterhorn Ultraks and just four days after Kilian Jornet’s successful attempt on the Matterhorn Summit record attempt from Cervinia. It has been quite a few days for this iconic mountain and although Kilian has excelled on both occasions, we all know, the mountain is still the boss.

Kilian arrives with Emelie Forsberg looking relaxed and fresh after a late breakfast. I congratulate him (and Emelie) once again on topping the podium at the Skyrunning Matterhorn Ultraks race and ask him how he feels, ‘I am a little tired but feel good. I was certainly tired in the race but I didn’t push too hard. I just did what I needed to do to win the race’.

Our conversation turns the TNF UTMB and we discuss how the race will unfold for the men and women. Kilian and Emelie are animated at the prospect of Julien Chorier, Miguel Heras, Anton Krupicka and the other contenders going head-to-head. Emelie gets excited at the thought of Nuria Picas in the ladies race, it’s her first 100-mile race and of course Emelie knows the Catalan well. We could talk all day but eventually I settle down with Kilian in a quiet corner and we discuss the Matterhorn.

IC: It’s the day after the Matterhorn Ultraks, firstly Kilian, congratulations on your win! Another great race with Luis Alberto Hernando but maybe what is more impressive is that it comes just a couple of days after your Matterhorn Summits. How are you feeling?

KJ: I feel good. It was a super good race with a great atmosphere. To run with Luis Alberto Hernando was super nice. I was very tired before the race, particularly the day before. I used a strategy for the race to take it easy and take the win in the last kilometers. Yes, I think I was much more tired than in other races this year.

IC: We spoke in the Dolomites and we discussed then that your next Summit would be the Matterhorn. You travelled to Cervinia and you lived here for weeks to train. You had the utmost respect for Bruno’s record of 3:14:44. The Matterhorn is a dangerous mountain. You said you needed to learn the mountain, to understand every step. I think in that time you went up and down the mountain multiple times. Just before your attempt you said that the record was in your grasp… what is it like to look at something that is perceived as being an iconic record, a record from 1995, you said in a quote that it was a record you had dreamt of. Something from childhood that you wished you could achieve. It is a massive undertaking. For you it is more than a record, it’s your life.

KJ: I remember it well; I was 13 years old. I entered into a mountaineering center; I was talking to Jordi, the trainer. I said at the time that the record was impossible. I spoke to Jordi recently and he reminded me that I was dreaming about the Matterhorn all those years back and about the record. I thought it was the ultimate expression of our sport. It’s a beautiful summit. It has a logical line. It is a hard record, it is push running and climbing, so, it was in mind for many years… more than Mont Blanc and all the other records. About five years ago when I started to think about Summits of my Life, the Matterhorn was my goal. The other summits were really preparation for the Matterhorn and Bruno’s record. For me, it was the most difficult record in Skyrunning and mountain running. For example, Pikes Peak is not Skyrunning. I was really afraid, not of the mountain as I was climbing a lot but of the time. I summited the Matterhorn nine times before the ascent. The first time you climb you become aware of what is possible. You go up and down and say, wow, this is the time I need to beat. After going up and down nine times I think okay, I know the mountain, I am not going to fall, I know this mountain well. I was aware of where I could go hard and where I needed to go easy. However, the morning of the attempt I was nervous. I thought to myself, will I do this record or will I do four hours?

IC: A few people asked why you made the attempt at 3pm; it seems quite logical that the Matterhorn is a busy mountain so I assume the mountain would have been less busy?

KJ: Yes for sure. It is a busy mountain when conditions are good. When I climbed nine times I saw hardly anyone, just two or three teams. I was alone. The week of the attempt we had good days with warm and dry conditions and everyone was on the mountain. Over one hundred teams! So, I was talking with all the guides and the helpers. We asked the question, what do we do? So many people on the mountain and it would have been impossible. My first idea was to start between 7-8am but it would have been crazy to pass people. We decided to start later. It was the perfect decision. It was warm at the summit and I wore just a t-shirt and nobody was in the way. Everyone was going down or in the hut. I just had the safety guides to help. It was perfect!

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

IC: In the build up to the record, you actually met up with Bruno Brunod. Did he go on the mountain with you or did you just talk about your attempt?

KJ: Bruno said he never climbed the Matterhorn after his attempt. We met in Cervinia and discussed his record. What conditions he had, how he prepared, how he was mentally and then we discussed the rope, the short cuts and how he made time. It is funny, Bruno stopped running in 2003 but last year he started running again and he is now preparing Tor des Geants. He never ran long distances; he was afraid. I said, c’mon man, you are strong, and you can do well in these races.

IC: So, Bruno has gone from no running to doing one of the longest races on the calendar, I guess when you are Bruno Brunod you don’t do things by half. When you go on the mountain to learn and understand, what process does that involve? Do you have several options to attempt the summit and therefore you try them or do you have a defined route and then you put that route in your mind so that you know every step. You know you can push in one place and you won’t slip in another place?

KJ: It’s one route. The Lion Ridge is the classic route and the fastest. It is the historical route and the same as Bruno used and those before him. You work out the differences but it is a thin ridge, you have several places that you can pass but yes, it is about planning. It is about knowing where to put your feet, knowing where to push and when not. I think you need to understand the mountain. You have parts in the west and north face and they are thin in the ridge and you can have ice. If you go in the morning you will have ice. If you go after 10am then this will be water so you can go there. You need to spend time to understand how it works, to understand the mountain and its life. Always in the north face it was icy, so I was aware I needed more care. On the west side I could push harder as the rock was warm and the rubber of my shoes would have better grip. It is important to spend time and understand that exactly. For example, if it is cold or windy, my shoes don’t grip the same as a warm day. I need to know this so I know exactly where to go. It is super important to understand the mountain and how the weather conditions are.

IC: On the face of it, people look at you and think you are very relaxed and casual. I know, I have seen you work and I have seen you study a mountain, you know the history, you go into in depth research to make sure these attempts are correct and that you know what you are doing. It is obviously very important. You have mentioned a simple thing like shoe rubber. Did you have special shoes?

KJ: Yes I tried different rubbers. I always used the Salomon Sense but I had different soles, different grades of rubber. For the attempt I used a softer rubber for grip. In the snow any shoe glides. You just need the technique of a flat foot and the ability to push.

IC: What is great about these attempts in comparison to Bruno, for example, in 1995 I guess Bruno stood in the square in Cervinia and just a few people were around probably having a beer, but Marino Giacometti and Lauri Van Houten were instrumental in Bruno’s attempt. They helped finance it, they arranged the safety, they arranged a helicopter and of course they got involved in your attempt. Fortunately for us we had the opportunity to have Seb Montaz follow the process, for those who know Seb, he is like your self a master of his craft. We have had some great glimpses of your summit; short videos are already on YouTube. Clips of you running a ridge jumping a crevice, or sliding down snow. It brings what you do into perspective. We can talk about you going up and down the Matterhorn but it’s easy to think, ok! But we may not have an idea of the difficulty or danger. These videos convey this. It is an important aspect. Is it a way to record you achievement but is it also a way to attract people to the mountains and also let people understand the beauty and danger?

KJ: It is the second for sure. It is not about my achievement. When I stop it will be in my mind. It is more a learning process. It enables the people to join us in the mountain and it enables everyone to understand. It’s beautiful, it is nice but it is also very difficult. It takes preparation, we do take some risks but the videos help motivate and inform. The way I go the mountain is possible but you need to learn. For me, my summit was the Matterhorn; I understood my capacity, my ability and my technical skill. I accept the risk. For everyone else it may be here or close to the home. We want to show and share that you can be light in the mountains and hopefully more people will understand. I go naked to the mountain.

Kilian Jornet ©laurivanhouten_ISF

Kilian Jornet ©laurivanhouten_ISF

IC: The actual record. You started 3pm from Cervinia. You are in Salomon Sense, shorts, T-shirt and a jacket around your waist. You look like you are going for a run… of course that is what you are doing! You start and in the early stages it is easy and then it becomes tricky, technical, you have ropes, ridges, faces to ascend and so on, how do you process the attempt in your mind. Did you have specific targets, so, did you know what time you wanted to be at a certain place or do you go on feel? I know in the early stages you only had about 3 minutes on Bruno’s record, it was maybe a little too hot but once past a certain point you really opened up time. Of course on the descent you came down super quick. You did 2:52:02 instead of 3:14:44. I believe Bruno predicted 2:52! Were you surprised?

KJ: I was really surprised. When Bruno said 2:52 I said, no way.  I was thinking, I might break the record by 2-3 minutes maximum. Maybe 3:10 would be a good time? During my practice runs I never ran fast because in the hard parts you don’t want to go hard. It’s like a lottery and taking numbers… you leave taking numbers for race day! The only time I went faster was the second day when I trained. I thought, wow, maybe I can beat Bruno’s time. If I am close to Bruno’s time then I can go faster. I spoke to Seb Montaz on the morning of the attempt, he said if you are at the summit within 2 hours it will be so good, you will have time for the downhill. I said, yeah I will be so very happy. When I started the summit attempt it was the afternoon so this was good at the top because it was warm, however, it was warm in the valley too. I don’t like warm. I started with a good pace but it was hard to find the strength. I saw lots of people and friends. Bruno was shouting at me, ski friends shouted, guides from Cervinia, Nuria Picas was there and so on… they gave me energy. I said to myself, I must keep going, I must push. I had Bruno’s time in my mind but I had no prediction of what I could do.

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

I was close to Bruno’s time until the Leone Col then the ridge starts and then I came into my own. It is where I love to run. It’s technical, you need to climb and you need to push. It is exposed. I love to be exposed on the mountain. From here I was not moving fast but fluid. This is the way to move in this terrain, if you go fast and you go more than you can you will have an accident. Moving fluid allows me to move quickly. I started to gain time all the way up to the summit. I looked at my watch and I saw I was almost 12 minutes in front of Bruno’s time, I said to myself, wow, this is incredible. It is possible! Okay, I said, I can do it. I was happy but I could not disconnect. It is a long down hill to Cervinia; I needed to be sure of every step. The boss of the guides in Cervinia said to me at the summit, you can do it! I started down in deep concentration. I was enjoying it so much; I love to run the technical sections. You don’t push with your legs; you push with your mind. Where to put your feet, where to put your hands, when to glide, when to go faster, when to stop, this is what I love, I was enjoying it so much. When the most technical part stopped, I realized I was almost 20 minutes in front of Bruno; so, the last part was just pushing to the finish.

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

IC: Myself and many other people were very worried about the Matterhorn. We respected the mountain and we anticipated that you would push; pushing brings danger, so when you got to the summit and you knew you were ahead of Bruno’s time did that mean that the descent was easier, you took less risks than if the time had been very close.

KJ: Yes of course. If I had been at the summit in 2:10 I wouldn’t have come down at the speed I did. I would have taken more risks. I also think that this doesn’t work! Many people who saw me said that I was going down very fast, they said I looked really fluid and that I wasn’t taking risks yet I was very fast. I think this is the way to go down the mountain. If you take risks the body position is different, you can’t glide as well and so on. You lean back and this slows you. If you feel confident, you can go fast. I think maybe I could have gained 6-7 seconds by taking risks. It’s nothing! These 6 or 7 seconds may have been my life… I knew the route very well and I had no need to take additional risks. I just wanted to be confident. My mother was on the mountain and she had bad memories of when she climbed the Matterhorn for the first time but if you climb again and again, you know it’s risky but it isn’t necessary to take risks, it is about being confident.

Kilian Jornet ©laurivanhouten_ISF

Kilian Jornet ©laurivanhouten_ISF

IC: When you arrived in Cervinia, it was like the end of a race. It was incredible. The barriers were out. It was almost like the race finish here in Zermatt. Did this surprise you?

KJ: Yes, I was completely surprised. I was in Cervinia for three weeks sleeping in my van in preparation for the attempt. I was surprised by the reception by everyone. For example, the first day I climbed the Matterhorn I was with Emelie. We climbed with running shoes and when we reached the top, the mountain guides said, ‘wow, you are going with run shoes. Congratulations. Do you want to try the Matterhorn record, can we help you? Tell us the day, we want to help you’. There is not another place that is like this, we usually get the response of, ‘What are you doing here in run shoes, this is ridiculous’. Not in Cervinia, they wanted to help us right from the start. Every time I climbed it was so open, the support was great. I was always asked, ‘tell us what day you go and we will help. We want to be on the mountain to help and support you’. It was the same for the hotels in Cervinia, they offered me showers or they said if I needed anything such as Internet that I could use the Wi-Fi. It was an incredible ambience. People were happy that I was in Cervinia to do the record and they got behind me. I think this was the most beautiful part of the record. I went just with my van, I was alone to climb but everyone was supporting the team and myself. It was so easy then to do the record. The day before my attempt, I made a call to the mountain rescue and said, ‘Tomorrow I go’. He replied, ‘Okay, how many people do you need? We will put people in the mountains for safety in case you have a mistake’. He called the mountain guides and they said, okay, we will put people here and here. The guides had finished work at midday on Wednesday and then they returned to the mountain to support me. It is unique. The reception was so fantastic.

Great video here on YouTube ©Martin Mikloš

IC: It was incredible the level of support you got. Knowing you, you would have quite happily got out of your van, started in the square and returned with no fuss. Marino Giacometti made a very good point, these record attempts do need to be verified, it does need an element of proof that you do go to the top and do come back down. Of course we are not questioning your honesty. But for future records a structure needs to be in place. I guess if we set a standard for the future it can only be a good thing. Does that mean for future attempts such as Elbrus in Russia, will you start to incorporate this system.

KJ: Yes, I know I need someone to do the chrono and I am aware I need someone at the summit. For Mont Blanc, I had people from the Tourist Office to confirm my attempt and I had guides at the summit. I also have the gps files on my Suunto. At the Matterhorn it wasn’t an issue, we had everyone in place and it was almost taken out of my hands. For example, Marino Giacometti did the chrono in Cervinia but the guides etc. were fully behind the attempt and they verified the route. My chrono was radioed to all the guides on the mountain so my progress could be monitored. It is important to be true. It is just like doping control… it is about integrity, my intentions are 100%, it is important to do a record in the correct way. I am aware that many ‘FKT’s have no control, I personally believe in the people but when you see the world and see the problems, I am aware of the issues of how people can not be honest.

IC: What was great about this attempt, because you had a team of people up the mountain, we had time checks back that meant that we could Tweet and Facebook times to the world. This was so exciting. Social media became alive following you. I think we stopped so many people from working. They wanted to follow. It is interesting from my perspective because it is what I do, but I guess the concept of someone running up and down a mountain and that message being sent around the world, some may think, why is that interesting? But it is so exciting; the updates had people glued to your progress. Can you relate to it or do you just think about the mountain?

Video courtesy of Seb Montaz ©sebmontaz

KJ: When I am on the mountain. I am 100% focused. I need to be in my moment and think about where I put my feet, how fast do I go. If my mind wanders I will loose time or maybe my life, so I was super focused on moving as quickly as possible. It is just the mountain and I. The social media and the photography I leave to others. For example, Seb was in the helicopter but I never saw or heard it even though he was so close. This is because I needed to be 100% committed. I think this is nice. In racing I think for the last three years I have managed my effort and therefore I don’t need to focus as much but this was completely different. It was like the first time I raced ten years ago when I was super focused. It is a super nice feeling.

IC: Certainly social media has made what you are doing so accessible which is great for us but it is also great for you and everyone else involved. I guess now your energy focuses on Russia and Mt Elbrus?

KJ: Yes, I need to relax a little first…

IC: You said that to me last time, when I interviewed you in the Dolomites. You told me you wouldn’t race for a month and then you went to Sierre-Zinal.

KJ: Ah yes, I was close to Sierre-Zinal, it was just the other side of the Matterhorn, so it was good training. Plus it was the 40th edition. Now I take a couple of weeks with no racing but I will train a lot, I love that; I need to do it to be alive. I will train but not race until UROC in the US. I will focus on Elbrus for the next few weeks; I want to go to Russia before UROC, maybe the 15th September. I will plan around that date and train at altitude.

IC: So does that mean you will do the Elbrus summit before UROC?

KJ: Yes, I think so. After UROC I have Skyrunner World Series, Limone Extreme and the then Diagonale des Fous, so, after this I want a break.

IC: You say a break, does that mean ski mountaineering?

KJ: It means one week of no training and then I will be in the mountains for November and December but I won’t race.

IC: Okay, we will follow you and see if you do race… Kilian it has been fantastic for you to give me so much time to talk about the Matterhorn. It’s great to get such an insight. Finally, when are we going to see the full edited Seb Montaz movie of this year or the recent summit?

KJ: We are working on it and of course we will work more after Elbrus. November and December will see much of the work being done in edit, so we hope before the end of the year. Maybe late December?

IC: Perfect. Thank you so much for your time.

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

The Matterhorn – A history and perspective

“It is a technical mountain. Bruno Brunod has a record of 3:14:44. It is a technical route that is not difficult BUT if I fall, I will die! I need to know the route very well, I need to spend time on the mountain, and I need to learn every step.” Kilian Jornet, July 2013.

Monte Cervino (Italian) or Mont Cervin (French) or Just the Matterhorn is a mountain on the border between Switzerland and Italy. At 4,478 meters (14,690 ft) high, it one of the highest peaks in the Alps. It consists of four steep faces, striking above the glaciers that surround it. Overlooking the town of Zermatt it is an iconic mountain and possibly ‘the’ most photographed mountain in the world. It is a mountain that dreams are mad of. Kilian Jornet is no different, “I have been dreaming about this record since I was 15”.

Ironically, the Matterhorn was one of the last great Alpine peaks to be climbed and the first ascent by Edward Whymper in 1865 brought an end to the ‘Golden age of alpinism (The period between Alfred Wills ascent of the Wetterhorn in 1854 and Whymper’s ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865, this period saw many peaks in the Alps have first ascents)

Since 1865 to 1995 it has been described as one of the deadliest peaks in the Alps, over five hundred lives have been lost in this 130yr period. I guess the first ascent in 1865 showed us the danger potential when four climbers fell to their deaths on the descent.

The Matterhorn has two distinct summit, both situated on a 100-metre-long rocky ridge: the Swiss summit with a height of 4,477.5 meters (14,690 ft) on the east and the Italian summit with a height of 4,476.4 meters (14,686 ft) on the west. Their names originated from the first ascents, not for geographic reasons, as both are located on the border. Each summer a large number of mountaineers try to climb the Matterhorn via the northeast Hörnli ridge, the most popular route to the summit.

Small patches of snow and ice cling to the faces of the Matterhorn, but the faces are steep and regular avalanches occur. Snow hurtles down the four sides and accumulates on the glaciers at the base of each face.

Four main ridges separate the four faces of the Matterhorn and therefore it offers four distinct routes.  The least difficult technical climb and by far the most popular is the Hörnli Ridge, which lies between the east, and north faces and it faces the town of Zermatt. The Zmutt Ridge (west), between the north and west faces is, according to Collomb, “the classic route up the mountain, it’s the longest ridge and also the most disjointed.

The Lion Ridge, lying between the south and west face is the Italian normal route.  It is the shortest route on the mountain and has fixed ropes in place but many think it to be a far superior climb, particularly when compared to Hörnli Ridge. Furggen Ridge is the final offering, it is the hardest offering and in good conditions is not too difficult, and it does however have a reputation.

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1000082J.J and J.P Maquignaz made the first ascent of the Italian ridge as it is climbed today in 1867 but Kilian Jornet had his eyes on Bruno Brunod’s record set in 1995 when he did Breuil-Cervinia to the Matterhorn summit and back in an astonishing time of 3:14:44. In addition, Bruno also has the record for climbing the Matterhorn, again from Breuil-Cervinia just to the summit in a time of 2:10.

Back in 1995, Skyrunning president, Marino Giacometti and Executive Director, Lauri Van Houten were not only present but also helped finance Bruno’s attempt. Lauri still says how the thought of it, “brings shivers down my back”.  Lauri and Marino both acknowledge the danger and undertaking that Kilian had given himself. “I remember standing in the square in Cervinia and about 3 hours 10 min had elapsed. There was a real buzz and noise and then somebody shouted, he’s coming! We all ignored it; we thought it couldn’t be possible… but minutes later Bruno appeared. It was a magical moment, one I will never forget”, says Lauri.

Bruno is very much considered the father of Skyrunning. His exploits, to this day seem to go beyond human limit. Without doubt, Kilian Jornet is in the same mold and in real terms, Bruno has lead the way for what Kilian now wants to achieve with his Summits project. Kilian’s final Summit will be Everest. Bruno himself attempted Everest; he however gave up when at a height of 8.200mt (26,900 feet) due to very hard weather conditions.

Bruno’s passion and time is now focused on his construction company, however, just recently he joined Kilian on the Matterhorn as he prepared for his Matterhorn attempt. Two masters together discussing the mountain. Without doubt, Bruno played a big part in the successful attempt by Kilian and ironically he predicted a time of 2:52:00. Maybe Bruno knows Kilian better than Kilian?

Bruno’s records:

  • Matterhorn uphill and downhill from Cervinia in 3:14
  • Monte Rosa uphill and downhill from Gressoney in 4:45
  • Aconcagua uphill and downhill in 5:57
  • Kilimanjaro uphill on the Marangu Route in 5:38
  • Mount Elbert uphill in 1:54
  • Three times winner of the Becca di Nona SkyRace (2002 – 2003 – 2004)

See ISF recognised records at skyrunning.com

The Matterhorn ©iancorless.com all rights reserved

The Matterhorn ©iancorless.com all rights reserved

READ THE KILIAN JORNET INTERVIEW, pre MATTERHORN HERE

CREDITS:

Firstly, a big thank you to Kilian Jornet, for his time, his patience and his inspiration.

Interview conducted by Ian Corless ©iancorless.com no reproduction or quoting without prior permission, all rights reserved.

Images provided by: iancorless.com, Lauri van Houten (ISF) or Seb Montaz – all protected under © copyright. No reproduction without permission.

Video ©sebmontaz

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10200896714474535

Salomon Sense Hydro S-LAB Set

salomon_sense_hydro_s_lab_glove

 

No pun intended, okay, it is a pun… but I got my hands on these babies in 2012 at Transvulcania La Palma and Zegama. I was with the R&D guys from Salomon at Zegama and was provided with a couple of these beauties try while out on our run up to the top of the Zegama course.

The Salomon Sense Hydro S-LAB Set is an interesting concept. Many of us have struggled and played around with many different ways to carry fluid while out on a run. For many a bladder is too problematic; you don’t know how much you have drunk, awkward to refill, sometimes they hold a taste, potentially un-hygienic if you don’t clean them properly. Of course an option is a pack that takes bottles on the rear or on the front in chest pockets. For me, if I am doing a longer race or training run this is my preferred option. Bottles are user friendly, easy to refill and of course you can see how much you have drunk.

An issue can arise though when running lighter, faster or shorter. A pack may very well be just too much… bottle belts? Mmmm, well so many of them are just not comfortable. Way too much bottle bounce (that is until THIS came along, the S-Lab Skin Belt).

For me an option has always been hand bottles for my hydration and if required a light belt for carrying essentials (but not bottles).

Hand bottles, you either love them or hate them. Personally I love them… they help free up your body and make drinking easy and regular. However, they can have downsides. Start with a bottle that is too big and you will know about it in the arms, shoulders and neck after a first run of any length… so start light and small.

Another problem is, quite obviously, your hands are ‘full’. Now on a non-technical or easy terrain this may not be an issue but as soon as the trail becomes ‘technical’ your hands may well be required, or at least your fingers. Bottles then can be a problem…

Step in the Salomon Sense Hydro S-LAB Set.

Salomon Sense Hydro S-LAB Set

 

On first look you may very well think that this is a simple drink method over engineered. I guess in some ways it is… BUT it works and it works like a dream.

Salomon Sense Hydro S-LAB Set

 

It’s simple and comes in two parts – the glove and the flask.

Salomon Sense Hydro S-LAB Set

 

Imagine a cycling glove that just slips onto your hand with all 4 fingers poking through a large opening and your thumb through a separate gap. The glove fits tight offering a secure comfortable fit with no seams to cause irritation.

Turn the hand over and you have two large elastic straps. Quite simply pull your soft flask through the securing straps and then pull the loose elastic cord that sits on top of the glove over the nozzle and pull to the required tension and there you have it. A bottle secured in your hand but with full hand movement.

Salomon Sense Hydro S-LAB Set

 

Currently the soft flasks are available in limited sizes but apparently the range will be available from 150 ml to 1000 ml. Now I am not sure if a 1000 ml flask would sit comfortably in the hand but I do know a 500 ml flask does!

In use I found not only the freedom of my fingers a revelation over previous bottles I had used but I also found that when I slipped, stumbled or had to use my hands to move debris or trees I could do so without having to worry about what was going to happen to the bottle. In addition, opening gels or food wrappers was equally no problem. I had full hand and finger movement (admittedly not as free as if I had no bottle) but certainly I had more finger dexterity with the Salomon Sense Hydro S-LAB Set than any other bottle I have used.

The other plus? The back of the glove is soft towelling… get a runny nose or a sweaty brow, no problem. Just use the back of the glove and wipe away in comfort.

A perfect fit can be found as they come in an option of sizes S, M and L and I understand the standard bottle will be 250 ml. Just as a note, my size was medium but I also had a large so if I needed warm gloves I could then put the Sense Hydro S-LAB Set over the top and keep my hands warm.

This product has been tested in race environments by the Salomon Team and if you look back at Western States and say Transvulcania La Palma you will see this product being put through it’s paces by the likes of Kilian Jornet, Andy Symonds, Rickey Gates and so on…

In summary, it works, it’s comfortable and it provides added dexterity. Recommended.

Salomon Running can be viewed HERE